National Medical Commission (NMC), which regulates medical education in India, has turned down a request from the Indian Embassy in Philippines to give relief to over 10,000 medical students.
These Indian students have been pursuing a bridge medical course in Philippines from 2019 onwards while the NMC’s new regulation has invalidated their studies.
The Indian Embassy in Manila in Philippines, requested NMC to give special exemption to these students but has been turned down.
The students’ plight started on November 18, 2021, when the NMC enacted Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate Regulations 2021. One of its conditions says that the duration of the MBBS course that the students who are going to do abroad should have a minimum duration of 54 months.
In the Philippines, medical education is offered in two parts - BS Biology is a course conducted for 18-24 months which is followed by the 48-month doctor of medicine (MD) course.
Students wanted to know if BS Biology and MD together would be considered as one course. The embassy wrote to the NMC which, in its letter dated December 7, 2021, gave its clarification and said, “…the bridging BS course of 1.5 -2 years before MD course will not be included in the calculation of the duration of the course.”
The NMC also said that its regulation will not impact those students who got admission to MD courses prior to November 18, 2021. However, it refused to give the same relief to students who have been pursuing BS Biology courses.
On December 10, 2021, the Indian Embassy raised the issue in another letter to the NMC and wrote, “The Embassy is of the view that a special dispensation may be considered to students currently pursuing BS course in the Philippines to avoid academic and financial loss to them,” Vishwanjali Gaikwad, Second Secretary (PIC), Embassy of India in Manila, wrote.
“Several such students, who availed of admission in 2018/2019 or later are and affected by new guidelines have written to the Embassy seeking clarification on this aspect,” the letter added.
Almost after two-and-a-half months on February 22, 2022, the NMC reiterated its regulatory provision and refused to give any exemption.
Dr Aruna V Vanikar, President of the Under Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) of the NMC wrote back and said, “After the publication of the Gazette Notification dated, 18.11.2021, ie, NMC’s FMGL Regulation’s 2021, the students who have already admitted in any medical qualification/course which is not equivalent to the MBBS course in India, cannot be treated as eligible qualification for registration to practice medicine in India.”
Students have already challenged both the regulations as well as the clarification regarding the BS Biology course in the Delhi High Court which has issued notice to the NMC in both the matters.
“I fail to understand the NMC’s logic. It says that those who have been admitted to MD programmes before the enactment of the regulations, ie November 18, 2021, will get protection and their studies are recognised. But those who have been admitted to the BS Biology course before November 18, they will not get any protection,” Pravin Yadav, a student pursuing the BS Biology courses in Philippines said.